D-League, NBA / Apr 6, 2009 / 10:00 am

Forget contraction: The NBA needs expansion

Will Bynum (photo. NBA)

Will Bynum (photo. NBA)

How ironic and ultimately frustrating was it that, on the same weekend when the Iverson-to-Detroit project officially failed, Will Bynum gave the Pistons exactly what A.I. could have given them all along?

After Rip Hamilton got ejected in the third quarter of yesterday’s game against the Bobcats, the Pistons offense was set to tank before Bynum stepped in. He scored 26 in the fourth (finishing with 32 points), essentially winning the game for Detroit and keeping three games’ distance between them and Charlotte for the last playoff spot in the East. Bynum was unstoppable getting to the rack (9-15 FG) on the ‘Cats guards, and consistently won the battles against their bigs once he got there (14-16 FT).

That could have been Iverson. That is Iverson. So many people said A.I.’s attacking style wouldn’t work with Detroit, but when that offense was stagnant and its primary weapon was out, somebody had to say “F*** it,” put their head down, break out the yo-yo handle and get buckets. And lest you forget, Iverson can still do that.

But like they say, one door closing means another is opening. So while Iverson’s future is uncertain, Bynum’s is bright. The only downside for him is that while he’s recently been balling like a guy in his contract year — 32 points on Charlotte, 25 on the Lakers, 22 on the Clippers, 20 on Chicago in the last month — he’s not going to get paid like one yet. Having seen what they’ve seen, is there any way the Pistons don’t pick up their $850,000 option on Bynum this summer?

Thing is, every NBA team could have a guy like Bynum, one who breaks out in the latter part of the season and gives them a better idea of what personnel decisions should be made for the future. Without Bynum’s current hot streak, Joe Dumars might have allowed him to walk in free agency, drafted an unproven college PG for depth behind Rodney Stuckey, then watched Bynum flourish somewhere else.


The Pistons got lucky. But even the perennially unlucky teams around the League could have their own Will Bynum … if the NBA expanded its roster limit.

For the last month of the Major League Baseball season, the 25-man roster limit expands to 40 and teams start bringing up their minor leaguers to give them Major League run. It works two-fold: Aging vets get a chance to rest down the stretch (when the weather gets colder), and minor leaguers get a taste of the bigs.

Why shouldn’t the NBA do this? For the last three and a half weeks of the regular season — about 15% of the schedule, roughly the same as MLB’s expanded-roster period — expand each team’s 15-man limit to 17 or 18 to allow for more call-ups from the D-League.

At the least, even if the D-Leaguers don’t get much playing time, they still get to practice against NBA guys with NBA coaching. At the most, teams get a look at some potential rotation guys for next season (or even this season), players gain more NBA experience, and the D-League gains a little more legitimacy as a working farm system. And unlike the current system, teams don’t have to wait for somebody on the NBA roster to get hurt to get a look at some young prospects, especially teams in the thick of a playoff race.

There would have to be a couple new rules put in place:

* For the sake of the D-League guys having some sense of stability, NBA teams can only call-up players from the D-League franchise affiliated with them. (Example: Portland can only grab guys from the Idaho Stampede, the Lakers can only get guys from the L.A. D-Fenders, etc.)

* Shorten the D-League season (or crunch the schedule) to make sure the Finals are over by the time the NBA roster expansion period begins. While there will always be some roster uncertainty in the D-League due to call-ups earlier in the year (just like baseball) here you can avoid pissing off the paying D-League customers by constantly taking away their best/favorite players during their own playoff races.

Imagine this scenario for a team like Miami: They know they need to address their lack of big-man depth this summer, or even before the playoffs, ideally. At the same time, they’re fighting for playoff positioning and can’t take too many risks.

They’d like to get a young big guy in there to at least practice with the team and get in some game time, even if it’s during blowouts when the risk factor is low. But under the current system, the Heat have to be stingy with 10-days and D-League call-ups because they have injured guys like Luther Head and healthy guys like Dorell Wright whom they don’t want to cut, but are still basically taking up space on the roster.

Over the last three and a half weeks of the season, wouldn’t it help Miami to bring up a guy like Mouhamed Sene from their D-League affiliate in Albuquerque? He’s a former Lottery pick with size (7-foot), youth (22 years old) and potential. He could be a player for them someday. He could be a player for them right now. Expanding the roster allows Miami to bring Sene up today, after his D-League season would be over, and get a look at him against real NBA competition without having to cut any of their current 15.

Not everyone will unearth a gem in this fashion. Not everyone can land a Will Bynum out of left field or even a C.J. Watson. But it will help franchises in the future, cut down on some regretful personnel choices, and help the NBA’s minor league system become more of a true minor league system.

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  • Kermit the Washington

    Here’s the answer to everything you raised: ATTITUTE. Not expansion.

    Bynum doesn’t cry when he has to come off the bench. If Iverson would shut his MOUTH and just BALL like we all know he can…then there would have been NO ISSUE.

    That’s where the frustration comes from.

  • Bruce

    Here is what we need, no more GUARANTEED contracts, NFL style contracts. They jokers will be playing their butts off. Vince Carter off all people would be the reigning king of hustle.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/djkianoosh djKianoosh

    if they want to expand, the average player salaries have to come down. it probably can’t happen economically otherwise.

    they should add 1 team to each division, adding 6 overall, but keep the same 82 game season if they can somehow (i haven’t done the math) fit it.

    Or….. they’ll expand to europe and latin america and go global. Stern predicted it.

    … crazy thought. what if AI goes to Europe next year?!?

  • marcus the great

    great idea

  • jay jay

    Honestly where is AI going to play next season?

    I don’t think a team that’s contending for a championship would want to sign him. Becuase the team would have to accommodate for AI instead of AI accomdating for the team …if that makes sense?

  • Flip

    A very thoughtful proposal, AB. I think everyone can agree on the fact, that the D-league system as it stands right now is more than flawed…

  • YOUNGFED….”Its gone be a party yaaallll”

    Pretty good read a lil long winded towards the in there but I can tell you put a lil bit of thought into it. good job.

    BTW Will should start he’s better all around than Stuckey. He passes, goes hard, and shoots better. Let the hate begin.

    Also I totally agree with Kermit. AI used to be my favorite player. But I understand I used to feel like I was to good to come off the bench, hell sometimes if I wasn’t picked 1st I’d play with a chip on my shoulder like “They aint heard about YOUNG FIZZLE” lol. So I definetly understand AI.

  • IGP

    well like Kermit the Washington said, the answer is “attitute.”

  • http://www.dimemag.com The Jed

    A-Train, is this the first time you’ve seen Bynum play? He’s been getting good minutes for the Pistons. Here’s the thing – he can’t shoot. He had a really nice day but he literally can’t shoot at all. Don’t make it seem like he’s a real solution for them.

  • YOUNGFED….”Its gone be a party yaaallll”

    Oh he can shoot he aint no Kobe or Allen, but he aiight.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    Expansion is not the answer. They level of play is already watered down. I agree there are a lot of players riding the bench that could be very good if they had a chance to play but this is a professional league. You have to earn your chance to get minutes. Just because you have “potential” doesn’t mean you deserve to play. Making it to NBA is a privilege not a right. Earning playing time should be too. I’m not for contraction or expansion.

  • quest

    great post!


    EXPANSION???? LOL nah man gives more hoop dreams to the players that coulda woulda shoulda NAH MAN there’s something called SUMMER CAMP and that’s where those players geta chance to flourish the big name players take up most of the salary cap anyways so there’s lil room to sign a player for a 10 game contract on a hunch that’s why you pay the scouts the big money to know what they’re gettin them selves into before they put them in the big game.

  • karizmatic

    I don’t think expansion would work too well, for the simple fact that all the teams in contention are looking to stay in contention and bringing a young guy in for whatever purpose really kind of throws a wrench in chemistry. That guy still has to learn the offensive and defensive schemes of the team he’s playing for and learn teammates. That takes time. I don’t see how it really benefits teams for the playoffs. Now for future consideration it might help but I believe the benefit would be marginal. What’s the difference really between picking up Sene now and in the offseason? Could he really make that much of an impact to where he appreciably changes the Heat’s playoff trajectory? I think not, otherwise he probably would have been called up by someone earlier in the season. It’s a good thought, but I don’t believe the reasons given here stand up to scrutiny.

  • Kermit the Washington

    Yeah man…I agree with Spliff…

    Not only that, but like in the Iverson situation, it’s now clear to everyone that he can only operate in one type of system. And that is “put your head down, break out the yo-yo handle and get buckets”.

    When you end up on a team that actually has a mission like Detroit (did), then that doesn’t work all that often. And then Detroit gets blamed for “not knowing how to use him”. What is that?? He should get blamed for “not knowing how to play basketball outside of one dimension”. That’s the only way he’d get a ring. If he learns how to play within a team’s system, ANY system, he’ll be ok.

  • karizmatic

    Yeah unfortunately AI never really did learn how to play within a team concept outside of give AI the ball and let him do his thing. In one sense he’s a victim of his own talent. In another sense he just didn’t pay enough attention to trying to learn the aspects of the game necessary to sustain him at this point in his career. It’s ironic and almost Shakespearean. AI once asked practice? We’re talking about practice. Well AI now we know what you should have been using practice for.

  • http://deleted Luigi

    thats why they have the summer league actually. they check guys out to see if theyre worthy enough for NBA training camps. but i was watching this GT game years ago against UConn when Uconn won it with Emeka. young Josh Boone. BG…n GT was led by….WILL BYNUM! haha how ironic.

    but i think your idea is very good actually. but what if we just have more teams in the U.S?. or would that be an ultimate fail. because 30 teams with 17-18 players would just equal. 36-37 teams with 15.


    Love it, Love it! Great idea and makes sense! I already said Miami should have pulled a big from D-League and save that Shawn trade for someone else.

    Anyway great read and idea! Way to be in that thinkin lab AB.

  • Rizwan


    Bynum aint gonna cry about coming up from the bench because thats the best he is gonna do. Sure he’s a solid role player but thats it. Avery Johnson was right on ESPN the other day saying someone ought to have told AI that he might come off the bench, which would have saved all this drama now. I never understood why that guy lost his job. Come to Phoenix!!!

  • tim

    and just the other day i was getting laughed at for mentioning Bynum is a quality player by someone who told me to get off of these boards…

  • karizmatic

    @ Rizwan if someone had told AI that he might come off the bench he might have had his “back injury” earlier. The decision to bench him ultimately came because the team was not performing well with him in the starting lineup. It wasn’t a predetermined decision. Some of the blame rests with Dumars he knew he was bringing in a starting SG when he already has one. But the decision wasn’t about team chemistry it was about money.

  • Tha Boddy (Ultimate Disrespect)

    AI is gonna get his…He prolly won’t mind taking a pay cut to still prove he’s got it…

  • Rizwan

    @karizmatic, AI can also play the point although thats not his best position but the whole point in bringing in AI was to challenge and save money at the same time. Surely, a vet like AI should know whats best for the team and who says he only has to play 18-20 mins per game coming off the bench. Manu plays 30-32 when he comes off the bench. Its all about managing the team. It is about chemistry because if Michael Curry could control his team he’d be able to explain what the future holds for the team. If that was the case, AI would’nt have to read about himself being lucky to het MLE next season.

    Also, anyone catch Wrestlemania yesterday? Undertaker-Michaels was off the hook!!

  • Big Sneezy

    “ATTITUTE”. That gives me the giggles for some reason.

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Jed — I didn’t say he’s the new Iverson, but he can play, and he saved their ass yesterday. You wouldn’t pick up his option for less than a million dollars?

  • Ian

    why do kobe fans always do this

    “Oh he can shoot he aint no Kobe or Allen, but he aiight.”

    on everything oh he can pass but he aint no kobe or kidd , oh he can dunk bue he aint no kobe or carter , oh he can steal but he aint no kobe or paul , oh hes fast but he aint no kobe or parker , oh he can block but he aint no kobe or camby, damn people how long till we start hearing oh she can suck some dick but she aint no kobe or jenna jameson and dont let me get started on lebron.

    sorry youngfed lol just got carried away too much bron kobe love for my taste this season.

  • Rizwan

    For me, Lebron is getting a little too much love, great that he is. Kobe deserves the love he gets, he’s awesome!!

  • K Dizzle

    Great article

    Safe to say tho if Rip don’t get ejected, Will B don’t put up the monster 4th he did. Oppurtunity, my man…

  • Diego

    As said by others, nice article; I concur with idea.

    But if the League were to expand as to teams, the problem is that you’d still only would ever get to see Cavs, Boston, LA, Phoenix, etc. on national tv! Damn!

    It would be a better product if the whole country (not paying for nba league pass) could see some of the other teams! Hell, Josh Smith (as noted from my other posts, I’m not exactly his biggest fan) has at least one dunk per game that Von Wafer only can dream about swinging! But no one outside of Atlanta and opponent’s generally gets to see it!

    Spread the wealth, dumbass tv networks!

  • SteveNash

    Bad bad bad bad bad idea… so you fell in love with Willie B that quick huh? dude is not all that… he is not close to any real solution…

    btw – they are in the d-league for a reason… they have plenty of opportunities elsewhere… and why are you coming up with 6 year old ideas about expansion???

    ARRRGHHHHH DIME WT hell is going on with your writers!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • karizmatic

    @ Rizwan it is a sad mistake to think AI can play the point. That is a big part of what all this AI controversy is about. He can’t play point. If he could Denver wouldn’t have traded him.

  • Bron42 aka Had Springs Before Slamball

    for all you jumpin on AI once again..how do u say he can’t play in a system when EVERY allstar game he plays like a legit pg and rarely ever guns, therefor showing he can run a team as a pass first guy like Agent zero is now. Also he averages like 7 assists for a career. The issue is, AI is usually on teams where he NEEDS to gets buckets which is what makes him so attractive. Bad teams need a guy who can score so they get iverson. But at the same time, it puts AI with guys who can’t really ball and forces him to gun. Even the pistons now fall in that area. Not one guy in the starting lineup is a legit scorer at this point in his career. I mean sure they can go off sometimes but their not that paul pierce kind of legit go to threat.

    Also I love how when I said nash was a system guy since he only had 2-3 great years everyone jumped on my case. But now suddenly iverson is one dimensional and a system guy when hes had like 10 great years lol.

    The nba expanision idea would never work cuz as of late, the last couple playoff games mean too much for people to be risking tryin to get d leaguers time. I mean maybe if they just played on the practice squad but not during real games.

    And kermit, to say its attitude is one sided cuz like i said before, Rip Hamilton bitched even more than iverson when he was on the bench but no one was tellin RIP to shut up. Iverson flipped out once, rip did it everytime he was interviewed. And of course bynum isn’t gonna bitch, hes a no body. he was playin overseas last year so anything is good to him. AI is a hall of fame/all time great, who was brought over to be a savior/tax write off for a sinking team. So him coming off the bench and being pissed is completely different than bynum coming off the bench and being happy to be a pro. Hell, jordan on the wizards wouldn’t come off the bench.

  • Bron42 aka Had Springs Before Slamball

    @karizmatic, denver traded him cuz they needed more defense, not cuz he cant play point. Cuz if i remember correctly, denver still made it to the playoffs with him, even with melos off court issues. Thats like sayin the pistons traded billups cuz he couldnt’ score.

  • Ian

    really allstar game and 7 assists when he has the ball in his hands for 20 secs every possesion sorry but that explains nothing. what iverson fans dont get is that he doesnt adjust fine if he wants to gun for a bad team then he shoulndt talk about winning anything and since he cant adapt to play with good players what good is he really since u know u cant win with him being the man on a team.

    denver made the playoffs and got destroyed in the first round and in a league that more than half the teams make the playoffs that means SHIT.

    how many deep runs in his prime did he have??
    sorry hes overrated hes not bad but hes not great like i said 15 other sgs that arent considered to be as good as iverson can avg 25 plus gunning for that philly squad and we all know he didnt score efficiently so shooting % doesnt matter.

    who did the wizards have??? that jordan couldnt start as sg or sf not the same thing.

    rip can talk abit of bs because they made how many conference finals with him starting yeah id be pissed also if a new game that passes ONLY as the last option came to my team that has a team first mentality.

  • Ian

    bron man not good today
    compared a sad wizards team to detroit
    iverson can run point in allstar games
    like arenas lol u think thats going to last?

    22 shots per game to avg 27 thats just sad

    at to that shit his almost 10 attempts from the line hes taking around
    25-26 shots a game for 27 pts
    superstar??? far from it

  • Bron42 aka Had Springs Before Slamball

    Ian, as a dirk fan, u shouldnt complain about anyones playoff flops lol But on to iverson, Rip can’t talk shit cuz the team wasn’t doin much anyway. Plus, iverson didn’t even really get a chance to mesh with the team before people jumped on his case. your makin it like he was there for years and just killed the team. There was no real time to adjust. When he first got to the pistons, its not like he came out gunning. He TRIED to switch his role and thats when people started the “oh well iverson lost a step” debates. The only time he really went “iverson” was that game against the spurs and he was the only piston who did anything to keep them in that game. The team was already slipping before he got there. The point of my allstar game comment was, if hes around good players, he knows he can pass and does a great job of doing it. But on the pistons, they were always a team known better for their chemistry than their actual player for player talent. And ya denver got destroyed by the eventual champs and we all expected that cuz they couldn’t play D, but was that iverson fault? no, it was melo going Ice cold and them having no bench. I mean i agree with u at parts, iverson is never gonna be the john stockton type pg, but people are jumping on his case meanwhile hes never been in the situation where he was rightfully the 3rd of 4rd option. Even at this point in his career, hes better than anyone on the pistons. So just like u said about jordan, why should he sit bench? Thats how he sees it. As much as its iversons fault, its everyone in the organizations fault. I’m not even really a iverson fan, but I kno enough about ball to realize you can’t just put it in on him. The pistons didn’t adjust their game either, they just kept playing like billups was coming back. meanwhile they should of just spaced the floor and had AI and stucky attack the middle so rip and sheed could pop jumpers with maxiell crashing.

  • Ian

    bron we are making stuff up now
    dirk fan??? since when???

    no i didnt kill him before he was there i said the same shit about him since his philly days and he proved meright in denver. what is this bs that iverson fans have that no one is allowed to bash him??? i think hes overrated and a team killer period but u tried to say hes great with bad examples like running the allstar game???
    iverson is a good player but far from great imo. you think im basing all my iverson talk on the pistons im not. hell even if it was just 5 games the pistons were 4-1 this season before the trade and everyone had them penciled down to make at least the conf semis.

    and now back to dirk, iverson would kill to have dirks playoff resume with the deep runs the german pussy has had.

  • Ian

    shit dirk fan man lol i dont like him but i dont call him a choker

  • Bron42 aka Had Springs Before Slamball

    lol i was just messin wit u about dirk…and dirks reads as: alot of playoffs runs with nothing ending and chokin when it counts lol…can’t really say iversons ever choked.

  • Ian

    then neither has tmac if u only count when u get deep hehehehe

  • Bron42 aka Had Springs Before Slamball

    tmac hasn’t choked in the playoffs either….hasnt gotten out the first round BUT hasn’t choked lol They both lose cuz their teammates fell off..they never had the game in their hands and just laid a good egg, let alone more than once.

  • dagwaller

    Good idea Austin.